Lauren was born on December 29, 1992, a 6 lb 14 oz miracle. A rainbow baby after the passing of her brother Michael, who was born with Trisomy 22 and lived for 10 short days, and a miscarried baby shortly after. Lauren was an incredible blessing to her family, especially her mom.
Lauren was a gifted learner from the beginning. She played piano exceptionally well by the age of 6, and completed the entire Harry Potter series by the age of 8. Her advancement did not stop at her academics. While earning the highest honors throughout grammar school at St. Symphorosa, she excelled in every sport she participated in. Lauren was involved in four sports by age 12, and helped lead her softball team to win the all-star state championship that year.
The group of friends Lauren made in kindergarten became her friends for life. For many, as life continues and people grow apart, her circle grew by numbers and by strength. Lauren continued her Catholic education at Queen of Peace High School with many of her friends. Although Lauren continued to play sports her freshman year, she found that her true passion was in Cheerleading. Sophomore year, she tried out and made the competitive team for St. Rita high school. Lauren worked tirelessly to be the very best, and it showed.
At the age of 16, Lauren decided that she wanted to become a pharmacist. That year she applied for, and was accepted into the Midwestern University Pharmacy Career Explorers program. Her academic success only continued to climb. She graduated in the top ten of her class, was named an Illinois State Scholar, received multiple academic scholarships, and was accepted into the pre-pharmacy program every college she applied for including Illinois, Wisconsin-Madison, and Purdue.
Lauren began her undergraduate journey at Purdue, where she stayed for a year before coming home to continue her education at a community college. She secured a job as a pharmacy technician at Walgreens. Two years later, she was accepted into both Midwestern and UIC Pharmacy schools. She chose to call UIC’s medical campus her home for the next four years where she pledged an academic fraternity, Kappa Psi, and made another amazing group of friends. She was named pledge of the year, a token to her dedication and commitment to the organization. By her P3 year, she was accepted into the Rho Chi honor society, and maintained a 3.9 GPA. Lauren was on track to graduate Summa Cum Laude in May, 2018. She was in the process of accepting a full-time Pharmacist position at Walgreens when she took her life on October 9, 2017.
So what went wrong?
This is not a story that ends in the revelation of a drug ridden home, alcohol abuse, bullying, sexual abuse, or neglect. This is the story of an exceptional young woman who was haunted for the entirety of her life by undiagnosed anxiety, and ended in a debilitating depressive episode.
It has taken a very long time to come to terms with Lauren’s mental illness. As we reflect on her life, we began to understand the signs of her anxiety little by little:
- She spent six hours a day studying after school and would often stay up all night in preparation for a test or presentation
- She joined more sports and activities that she could handle
- She never, in 6 years, called in sick to work
- She was a people pleaser, a quality that drew her into people who could easily control and manipulate her
- She picked at her fingers until they were raw
- She never, ever felt as if she was good enough
I never realized how wrong all of this was, how badly her anxiety controlled her life. It didn’t occur to me that she went to dire lengths to be the very best because she didn’t believe in herself, that there was a constant tapping on her shoulder telling her to do better. She lived in constant fear of rejection.
Lauren’s lifelong battle with anxiety colided with a traumatic event and sent her into a depressive episode so deep, she was unable to overcome it. Despite her lack of happiness and bottomed-out self-confidence, she continued pursuing her doctoral degree and went to work every Sunday. After the constant persistence of our family, her doctor officially diagnosed her anxiety and she began seeing a therapist. We saw her emptiness, but believed that she was on the road to recovery.
Lauren stopped taking her medication and seeing her therapist a month after she started. She seemed to be improving, but all she really improved was the mask she wore. She learned to appease us by coming along on every family outing we planned, going out with her friends just enough not to raise suspicion, and no longer complaining about how she felt foggy and dull. We fell harder for the mask as she fell harder into her depression with each passing day.
Lauren didn’t deserve to die
I know deep down in my soul that Lauren could have pulled through and emerged from her depression with the help of professionals. I know that she could have lived the most fulfilling life as a Pharmacist, mother, wife, and friend. She would have saved lives, and spread an abundance of kindness to everyone that had the pleasure to cross paths with her. She would raise her children with love and gratitude and continued her life’s work of helping those in need.
Acceptance is the most difficult part of the grieving process, but I am committed to accepting that Lauren is continuing her work from Heaven. She is at peace, and the love shown forth to her is visible. She is the spark that started the fire in our mission to educate others on mental illness and suicide prevention.